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IBM's Linux Wristwatch

Frankly, it seems to be quite a miracle that the Big Blue research team has been able to pull this one off. On technical grounds this is a new milestone, which the world is going to remember for a long time. Putting together all those power-packed features into one small, tiny watch makes it the gadget of this millennium.

The Linux watch was conceptualized at IBM's T. J. Watson research center where various groups are continuously exploring the various challenges that arise in the area of user interface design, power management, input devices, wireless communication, sensors and models for co-existences for pervasive devices and wearables. The story goes, that among them, a team of researchers with skills in hardware design, Operating Systems, displays, electronic and mechanical packaging, industrial design and user interface design, that was spread across multiple research IBM sites, worked together to develop the wrist watch that would eventually run Linux and X11. The team, led by Chandra Narayanaswami, worked relentlessly for about 18 months to accomplish this feat.

The wristwatch runs the Linux 2.2.1 kernel with the ARM patch from Ben Williamson. According to IBM, there are certain issues regarding the non-availability of this patch in the latest stable kernel release. The ARM processor that powers the watch runs at 19MHz, is RISC based and which according to estimates is almost equivalent to a 100 Mhz Pentium. The motherboard for the watch was fabricated at IBM's Japan research center. The kernel, which required some massive hacking including the shell that the watch runs, was `tweaked' at Big Blue's research center at Bangalore.

Porting the `Boot Loader' to miniature architecture was one of their major achievements. According to the guys at IBM's research center at Bangalore, major hacking of the 'SH' shell was necessary to get it running on the wristwatch. Accomplishing the porting of the `boot loader', booting the kernel and obtaining the shell prompt was another of the research teams major milestones which they demonstrated at various conferences internationally.

With this, IBM has silently reiterated its commitment to the Open Source movement. Having accomplished their first milestones, the researchers then got hold of the X server version 3.3.1 and compiled the complete code including the necessary X Libraries. After many a laborious hour of tweaking, the size of the X Server was finally brought down to 1.8 MB.